Coffee Shop Employee Dress Guide: How Should Your Coffee Shop Employees Dress?
Dress code policies are written to inform employees about appropriate clothing, uniforms, grooming, and overall appearance while working at your place of business. They cover anything from uniforms to specific colors that are expected to be worn. If you’re planning to sell a ‘gotta-have-it’ cup of coffee, does it really matter how your employees are dressed? The simple answer is, yes. And, actually, it matters to more people than just the employee!
Establishing a dress code for your coffeehouse is beneficial for several reasons. First, you want to ensure your employees’ apparel will not be a safety hazard around hot beverages and electric equipment. Second, you want to present a clean, professional appearance to your customers. And, finally, you want baristas to feel comfortable and part of the team.
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Dress Code from Health & Safety Perspective –
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have dress regulations for restaurant and coffee shop employees. However, it does have guidance on any employee who works around safety hazards such as hot beverages and electric machines. Wearing loose clothing, jewelry, or accessories can be a danger around the machines in a coffee shop and is discussed in OSHA’s Standard Number 1926.960 – https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1926/1926.960
Conductive articles. When an employee performs work within reaching distance of exposed energized parts of equipment, the employer shall ensure that the employee removes or renders nonconductive all exposed conductive articles, such as keychains or watch chains, rings, or wrist watches or bands, unless such articles do not increase the hazards associated with contact with the energized parts.
Coffee shop equipment also provides risk of cuts and burns. When a risk is present, OSHA recommends wearing clothing that will cover exposed skin and keep it safe from sharp objects, hot surfaces, or splashing beverages. Loose clothing and accessories are also discouraged since they can easily catch fire or become caught in machinery.
For safety purposes, shoes are to be close-toed, have flat heels, and have a non-skid surface. Open-toed footwear like sandals and flip flops don’t provide protection against spills and drops, which could be seen in noncompliance with 1910.136(a), which states that employers should ensure protective footwear is worn when employees are working areas where such dangers exist. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/osha-guidelines-wearing-shorts-work-36084.html
Dress Code from Owner’s Perspective –
As the owner, you don’t need any surprises when your employees show up to work. Having an employee appear as if he/she just rolled out of bed 10 minutes ago can be a turn-off to your customers, and sending someone home to change an offensive t-shirt can cost you downtime. A dress code can be shared at the start of employment and will be one less issue to deal with on your part.
In the foodservice industry, dress codes are an essential part of restaurant branding, food safety, and workplace hygiene. By providing a clear restaurant dress code, you help your employees to understand your expectations and avoid any potential missteps when choosing their work attire.
The coffeehouse owner will, typically, provide an apron and name tag. In some cases, a shirt or uniform may be provided. The worker is expected to care for those items keeping them clean, stain-free, and wrinkle-free. The look of the workers reflects upon the shop and its owner. You want to convey the message that your coffeehouse is well-organized, clean, and takes pride in its work and employees.
Customers have expectations when they walk into a place of business —- a quality product, great customer service, and sanitary conditions. Since the employees are among the first things they see, the first impression starts there! A professional impression will send the message that customers will get a delicious cup of coffee from an expert barista in a squeaky clean environment!
In order to purvey that professionalism and sense of expertise, your coffeehouse dress code may expect the following of the baristas:
Solid colored shirt – preferably gray or white (this looks smart and will also keep from clashing with any logo or badge that may be worn)
Dark colored pants – possibly black, khaki, or dark jeans – will help hide stains (Shorts will not look as professional and will expose skin to burns and cuts.)
Skirts, if permitted, should be knee-length (Skirts can look professional but still run the risk of the exposed skin.)
A barista apron should be provided to each worker (This will not only protect clothing, but will identify your workers to customers looking for assistance.)
Good personal hygiene should be mandatory. Your dress code should include closely-trimmed facial hair, clean hands, manicured nails, and long hair pulled back to eliminate any contamination concerns. Also, workers should refrain from any glitter, hair sprays, or nail art that could flake off in someone’s coffee.
All clothing should be clean, wrinkle-free, stain-free, and without rips or tears
Piercings will be a personal decision made by each shop owner. Some may decide to allow one or two, some may be specific about where they can be located, and others may allow them fully. Whatever the decision, piercings should not distract from business or communication in any way.
The coffeehouse dress code should focus on keeping your employees safe and your customers impressed. Although some employees may be hesitant at first, most will soon find it makes them feel respected and part of the team.
Employees will want to give the impression that they are expert at what they do. Their appearance should command respect. With that being said, employee cleanliness cannot be overstated. Customers value sanitary conditions, and they know that starts with the workers. By showing the customer that clean and neat appearances are valued, you are sending the message that the entire organization values healthy and hygienic procedures.
Shoes may be one of the most important aspects of the total dress. Someone who works on their feet for hours should be wearing a comfortable, supportive shoe. These shoes can be a little more expensive, but will be worth the money in comfort! Shoe soles should be non-slip since floors in the shop can be sticky or slippery.
Cleanliness will also apply to the shoes. We’ve all had those trips to work where we end up in mud, slush, or water. Tracking that into a coffee shop where drinks and food are being prepared is not acceptable. Workers may want to carry work shoes to the shop or store them in a locker and change before and after shifts.
Since baristas often work in close quarters, all employees should refrain from wearing heavy perfumes or lotions. Save them for social time after work. The aroma of freshly-brewed coffee is what everyone wants to smell in a coffeehouse!
All in all, working with a dress code is not a bad deal for the employee. It provides safety, a professional appearance, and makes getting dressed for work a “no-brainer”. There may be an initial cost up front, but will be easily maintained with simply changing out a pair of slacks or a shirt now and then.
If you’re just selling coffee, does it matter how your employees are dressed? Yes!
It matters that they are safe around hot liquids and electric equipment.
It matters that you can trust employees to show up looking professional.
It matters that customers can get a positive impression of the sanitary and expert environment, and
it matters that the employee can be comfortable and respected.
Dress codes can, sometimes, receive a bad rap. But, for your coffeehouse, that doesn’t need to be the case. As long as you present it as being in the best interest of employee safety and customer satisfaction, you should find that all workers will be on-board. Make sure each receives a written copy of the dress code, and have a copy of it posted somewhere in the shop for quick reference.
If you start at the top with formal business attire — the suit, tie, skirt and jacket — then it makes “business casual” a little easier to understand. Business casual refers to clothing that’s not too formal and not too casual –button-down shirts, khakis, sweater and slacks. Now, take one more step down to “casual”. This is your comfortable clothing — T-shirts, clean sneakers, dark jeans, and possibly shorts. Although it’s meant to be comfortable for the worker, don’t lose sight of remaining professional and making good impressions; you will want to leave your sweatpants and sport shorts at home for your downtime. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/starting-new-job/casual-dress-code
My adventure in coffee began when I first launched my first coffee shop back in the early 2000s. I had to figure out so many things on my own and to make it worse within 2 years of opening two large corporate coffee chains moved in just blocks away from me!
As I saw smaller and even some larger coffee shops in the neighborhood slowly lose customers to these giant coffee chains and slowly close up shop, I knew that I had to start getting creative…or go out of business.
I (like you may be) knew the coffee industry well. I could make the best latte art around and the foam on my caps was the fluffiest you have ever seen. I even had the best state-of-the-art 2 group digital Nuova Simonelli machine money could buy. But I knew that these things alone would not be enough to lure customers away from the name brand established coffee shops.
Eventually, through lots of trial and error as well as perseverance and creativity I did find a way to not only survive but also thrive in the coffee/espresso industry even while those corporate coffee chains stayed put. During those years I learned to adapt and always faced new challenges. It was not always easy, however, in the end, I was the sole survivor independent coffee shop within a 10-mile radius of my location. Just two corporate coffee chains and I were left after that year. All told the corporate coffee chains took down over 15 small independent coffee shops and kiosks and I was the last one standing and thriving.
Along the years I meet others with the same passion for coffee and I quickly learned that it is not only “how good a barista is” that makes a coffee shop successful, but the business side of coffee as well.
Hence why I started this website you are on now. To provide the tools and resources for up and coming coffee shop owners to gain that vital insight and knowledge on how to start a coffee shop successfully.
Stick around, browse through my helpful blog and resources and enjoy your stay! With lots of LATTE LOVE!